Wildfires are fires that cannot be controlled and destroy huge areas in their paths in a few minutes. The causes could be natural, different types of weather, dry underbrush and wind. Wildfires may be caused by unintentional, or intentional behavior. Someone could start one by throwing cigarette butts carelessly on dry grass. Burning debris, firecrackers or unattended campfires and car crashes are other fire hazards.
Nature starts terrible fires by lightning and volcanic eruptions.These fires ignite and spread quickly, making it impossible to stop them. Millions of hectares of land burn down, causing great loss to the environment and people.
Wildfires and environment
Wildfire leaves a trail of destruction behind them. Whole forests are burnt down along with the animals and birds that live in those forests. The nutrients in the soil are destroyed. Humans living close by are killed, or suffer from smoke inhalation. The environment suffers greatly whenever there is a wildfire.
Worst wildfires ever recorded
1997 and 1998 Indonesian forest fires: (Around 97,000 km2)
The 1997 and 1998 Indonesian forest fires were the worst recorded in two centuries. The WWF called it a “planetary disaster”. The Indonesian government blamed climate change as the reason behind the fire. Another probable cause was the slash and burn technique used by farmers to clear land. The fire raised a haze of epic proportion where even the neighboring countries were affected. The API index rose to 800, and over 200,000 people had to be hospitalized.
1987 Black Dragon Fire (around 72,884 square kilometers)
The Black Dragon fire occurred in may 1987 in China and the Soviet Union. It was the largest wildfire in China in 300 years, destroying one-sixth of its timber reserves. 200 people lost their lives, 33,000 people became homeless, and it took 60,000 Chinese soldiers to put out the fire. The Chinese lost 3 million hectares of forest and the Soviet Union, which let the fire burn out naturally, lost 15 million hectares.
1989 The Manitoba Fires (32800 km2)
The Manitoba fires in 1989 in Canada rendered 24,500 people homeless and it cost the Canadian government over $68 million CDN to suppress. The fire was so intense that the ash and soot it threw up rained down like snow. People could not see houses next door. Airports had to be closed down as the visibility was so poor. A combination of dry weather and soaring high temperatures caused 1157 fires. The Canadian government declared a general state of emergency to deal with the fires.
The Great Fire of 1919 (Alberta and Saskatchewan) (2,023,000 ha) (20234 km2)
Fire researchers and historians consider this fire as one of the 10 largest in Canada’s history. On May 19th a wildfire broke out and ravaged the tinder dry boreal forest. The village of Lac La Biche was completely destroyed. Very few lives were lost due to the villagers who ran to the lake and covered themselves with wet blankets. The fire destroyed 2.8 miilion hectares of established forest reserves in that region.
1950 Chinchaga fire (1,400,000 ha) (14000 km2)
The Chinchaga fire was the biggest firestorm in North America. It burned in northern British Columbia and Alberta in the summer and early fall of 1950. According to local policy of that time, no measures were taken to stop the fire. It created the world’s largest smoke layer in the atmosphere known as the “1950 Great Smoke Pall”, observed over North America and Europe,making people see blue suns and moons. Animals felt the effect – cows needed to be milked at different times and birds were seen bedding down in daytime.
Great Fire of 1910 (1,214,057 ha) (12140 km2)
This firestorm lasted for two days and killed 87 people, mostly firefighters. The fire was started due to an extremely hot summer which led to an abundance of fire fuel and hot cinders flung from locomotives, sparks, lightning, and backfiring crews led to small fires raging in the region. On August 20, hurricane force winds combined hundreds of fires into two blazing infernos. The outcome of this wildfire was a new respect and awareness of forests as natural resources.
These wildfires burnt down millions of hectares of forests destroying all flora and fauna, killed off animals and humans in their path, and demolished thousands of years’ old ecosystems within minutes.They should be considered a lesson taught by nature to safeguard our natural resources.